Press Democrat execs announced Monday that the company's parent company — the New York Times Co. — is selling the 155-year-old paper, which was sold in 1985 to the Times Co. by the Finley family, according to the newspaper.
The company reported the sale throughout the day Monday, adding news as it broke in the Santa Rosa-based headquarters. The article stated:
"The Times Co. has shed assets as it tries to focus on its anchor newspapers: The New York Times, The Boston Globe and the International Herald Tribune."
Halifax Media, based in Florida, will acquire the Press Democrat, along with the Petaluma Argus-Courier, the North Bay Business Journal and 13 other papers. See that full list here.
While large newspaper companies continue to merge and slim down newsrooms that already operate on shoestring budgets — most recently with MediaNews, who has restructured a group of Bay Area-based papers — staffrooms have continued to be broken up, largely with layoffs and buyout packages offered to veteran staffers.
American Journalism Review pointedly said: "What this means for advertisers, readers and the newspapers' employees remains to be seen. The one certainty is that plenty of people are worried."
Alan Mutter, who writes a blog called "Reflections of a Newsosaur" reflected on the newspaper industry recently. Poynter said that "his figures confirm suspicions that newsrooms have been hit harder than other departments at newspaper companies. He figures that a fifth of the 3,775 job losses that Paper Cuts counted in 2011 came from newsrooms," Poynter wrote.
The future of the media industry looks bleak.
"The decline in newsroom employment has been twice as great since 2007," Poynter continued.
Press Democrat reporters yesterday fretted for their jobs, following a "surprise" morning announcement when news of the sale broke.
"Less than a week before Christmas, the Press Democrat building isn’t the cheeriest or most expectant that it’s ever been," reporters said in another story. "So for the moment each of us 300-some employees can only wonder if we will have a job next year, and whether Halifax will keep the PD or or sell it, and what changes are in store for this nearly 155-year-old newspaper."
The story struck readers immediately, growing to the most read story of the day, generating nearly 200 Facebook recommends betwewen two articles and 30 comments.
Readers spoke out — partly about concerns that the paper is right-leaning, about another newspaper consolidation, consoling reporters who could lose jobs and about the state of the media industry.
"The Press Democrat essentially destroyed its own prospects in this era of electronic media by refusing to cover the important issues of the day and having delusions that 'local' news trumped important finance, business, and other news that readers could use to better their lives," one reader wrote.
Another countered: "I for one appreciate the local coverage."
Reader Shaun Hensley said criticized the corporation.
"Corporate owned press changes hands? Is this really newsworthy? What will change editorially, if anything? I predict continued defense of the status quo," he wrote.
One said the that the ... "fact that a regional daily newspaper with a local monopoly has such declining revenues is a bad sign. Even in our electronic era, a daily newspaper with a staff of local reporters and editorial writers is a valuable part of our community."
A Rohnert Park reader empathized with employees, noting how difficult it is to work through uncertainty — something she was familiar with after working for State Farm in Rohnert Park when they announced they were leaving the 33-acre hub.
One commenter wrote, "maybe now folks will realize how local media here in the North Bay is both extremely vital, and truly, amazingly fragile."
Press Democrat Publisher Bruce Kyse reportedly said that a "vast majority" of staffers would be offered their jobs, with comparable salaries and benefits, but reporters said that they're waiting.
"We have no idea, not yet, at least, why Halifax is buying an entire group of papers and what it thinks of the Press Democrat. Or what it plans to do with it," one article stated. "So we wait. I and the people I work with at the PD love this paper and our roles in it and it our community. We hope the new owners will aspire only to make this newspaper better."
Print circulation continues to fall. Over the last decade, Press Democrat circulation has dropped 38 percent, to around 56,000 copies. The Argus Courier has a weekly circulation of 5,800 and the North Bay Business Journal prints about 7,500 copies per week.
Times officials have said they expect the “vast majority” of employees will be offered jobs at comparable salary and benefits, Kyse said.